A simple modification to a Vietnam-era triple ejection rack could be the key to providing a satellite-guided bomb capability for the US Air Force's Fairchild A-10 ground-attack aircraft. It could also dramatically expand access to precision weapons loads for Lockheed Martin F-16s.

The USAF is studying modifying Marvin TER-9A bomb rack assemblies to carry smart weapons such as Boeing's Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) series, says Lt Col Paul Clark, chief of its ageing aircraft office. The concept involves adding inexpensive electronics that can deliver global positioning system co-ordinates to the bomb racks from an onboard military standard 1760 databus.

The proposal intends to fill cheaply a shortage of smart bomb rack assemblies for the F-16 fleet, using a supply of hundreds of available TER-9As, says Clark. Integrating the modified racks on the A-10 could also mean a trebling of weapons loads for that aircraft, which now uses pylon stations to store a mix of unguided rockets and gravity and laser-guided bombs. The A-10 is to receive a precision engagement capability under a $300 million upgrade headed by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration-Owego (Flight International, 30 March-5 April).

The modification could also allow weapons loaders to shift between gravity and smart munition load-outs without changing the bomb rack assembly, possibly boosting sortie generation rates, says Clark.

Market research analysis is now under way to determine if the modification can be completed affordably. A solicitation notice shows the cost of the conversion programme could range from $1-5 million. Clark's office intends to provide at least a portion of that, but is also seeking contributions from other programme offices.

The concept is "another instance where if you look at your aircraft fleet as an enterprise you can look for ways to have a force multiplying effect", says Clark.



Source: Flight International